The last Power Rankings article I wrote before vacation was after Week 7, and across the board the Patriots were ranked No. 1. Three weeks, one Jamie Collins trade, and a last-second loss to the Seahawks later and the team has dropped 2-3 spots down the charts. The experts still consider New England as the top AFC contender, but also show "alarming" concern about the defense and how it was "exposed" by Seattle.
I can't pin the blame on anyone for breaking the Patriots while I was gone, because the foreshadowing was there after the win in Pittsburgh: "The only thing these experts can even point to for a potential wake-up, shake-up, would be a devastating breach in the Patriots bend-but-don't-break defense."
While it's not in the 'devastating' category yet, I hope the coaching staff is able to come up with a somewhat stiffer, more aggressive defensive strategy over the next few weeks - 49ers, Jets, Rams - before meeting the Ravens at home and the Broncos in Denver. Two teams that tend to play the Patriots tough.
I'll take a win, though, any which way it's served up.
Around the AFC East:
New England (7-2) at San Francisco (1-8)
Miami (5-4) at Los Angeles (4-5)
Buffalo (4-5) at Cincinnati (3-5-1)
NYJ (3-7) - Bye
Kansas City (7-2) vs. Tampa Bay (4-5)
Houston (6-3) at Oakland (7-2)
Baltimore (5-4) at Dallas (8-1)
Tennessee (5-5) at Indianapolis (4-5)
Pittsburgh (4-5) at Cleveland (0-10)
Jacksonville (2-7) at Detroit (5-4)
2nd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): To answer the inevitable question, I think when comparing the Seahawks and Patriots you have to look at the whole body of work and not one game that came down to a fourth-and-goal play. And since I put practically no stock in the Patriots’ other loss, when injured third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett was starting at quarterback, I still give the Patriots the slight edge.
2nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Should they worry too much about the defensive developments against Seattle? A little, because it was a reminder they still have work to do to live up to their huge AFC favorite position. The schedule ahead won’t provide any tests, however, outside of a return trip to Denver. This week: at 49ers, Sunday.
2nd - Paul Chartier (WEEI): Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks left fans in New England questioning whether or not this team has the personnel to make big plays on defense. The trade of Jamie Collins was staunchly defended by the disciples of Belichick, but the inability to turn the ball over or rush the QB is an alarming trend. Since four of the Patriots’ last six opponents have losing records, the AFC likely still runs through Foxboro, but Matt Patricia has a lot of work to do build a championship defense.
3rd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Opposing offenses had been moving the football reasonably well all season against the Patriots, but not scoring many points. That changed with the loss Sunday night to the Seahawks, who managed to move the ball efficiently and score points. The defense is an issue for the Patriots. But there’s no need to overreact to one loss. The Patriots were at the 1-yard line, on the doorstep of getting a TD and extra point to send the game into OT. They still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and they’re still the team to beat in the AFC.
3rd - Lorenzo Reyes (USA Today): Losing to Seattle is hardly reason for alarm. But other teams will surely take note of the way New England's defense was exposed as average.
3rd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): Small drop for New England, for obvious reasons. The Cowboys have won eight in a row, with their lone loss of the season having come by one point, in their rookie QB's first ever NFL start. Meanwhile, Seattle just beat the Patriots at their place, and flat out played better football in the process. While the Pats have only lost one game with Tom Brady, Sunday night was the first time in two months when Russell Wilson appeared healthy. One factor in the defeat might have been the absence of recently traded Jamie Collins, as Seattle did isolate Elandon Roberts in pass coverage a few times. It will be interesting to see how New England fares on defense without the now Cleveland Brown. Coming into Sunday night, the Pats were second in points per game allowed. Wilson put 31 on them at Gillette.
3rd - Experts (ESPN): Even after the Week 10 loss to Seattle, NFL FPI has the Patriots as the top-ranked team by a wide margin and still gives the Patriots a 31 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl this season (next closest: Cowboys, 17 percent). New England travels to San Francisco to take on the 49ers (1-8) this week.
3rd - Cameron DaSilva (Fox Sports): The Patriots have a better record than the Seahawks, but it's hard to say they're better than Seattle right now. If not for inexplicably conservative play-calling at the end of Sunday's game, the Patriots likely take that game to overtime and have a good shot at winning. That’s not to say it wasn’t an impressive victory for the Seahawks. It was, especially on a short week traveling across the country. If the Seahawks are 2, the Patriots are 2A -- it's that close.
3rd - Staff (AP Pro32)
3rd - Adam Stites (SB Nation): It wasn’t the 35-10 demolition job of Week 9, but the Cowboys just keep winning, and that’s something the New England Patriots couldn’t quite pull off against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Over the course of the season, the Patriots likely have the better résumé when compared to the Seahawks. But power rankings are a reflection of right this second and Seattle might be catching its stride.
3rd - Jenny Vrentas (The MMQB): It’s only been one game, but the early returns say trading Jamie Collins wasn’t the answer for a middling defense.
3rd - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): It turns out that Tom Brady is human after all. I was beginning to wonder after his flawless post-DeflateGate suspension joy ride. It took nine games before a Patriots quarterback finally threw an interception. Brady, of course, will be fine. The 49ers are about to be undressed next week. Take New England and the points. It's going to be a bloodbath in San Francisco.
3rd - Luke Miller (Metro): The Patriots have now lost twice at home in one season for the first time since 2012. When DeShawn Shead intercepted Tom Brady Sunday night, it was not just Brady’s first interception of the season but the first one New England has thrown. It’s rather remarkable when you consider they’ve used three quarterbacks this season.
4th - Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk): With a pair of home losses this season, maybe they shouldn’t want the top seed in the AFC.
4th - Chris Burke (SI): The Patriots’ defense clearly isn’t where it would like to be right now. On the other hand, the last time New England allowed 375-plus yards in three straight regular-season games was 2014, and it won the Super Bowl that season, so probably no need to panic just yet.